PHILADELPHIA – Not that Jose Uribe would know much about home runs. Exuberance, yes. Enjoying a rollicking champagne celebration, no doubt. And the San Francisco Giants reaching the World Series, absolutely.
Uribe was the shortstop on the Giants' 1989 World Series team and a cousin of current Giants infielder Juan Uribe(notes) before he died in a car crash in the family's Dominican Republic hometown of Juan Baron in 2006. He taught Juan how to play baseball, taught Juan to love the Giants, and when Juan circled the bases Saturday night after hitting the eighth-inning home run that sent the Giants to another World Series, Jose was in his heart.
"God helped me a lot, and my (cousin) helped me a lot," Juan Uribe said softly in a quiet corner of a raucous visiting locker room at Citizens Bank Park, his eyes red from emotion, his body soaked with bubbly. "I love him. He taught me everything. He's with me today."
Uribe produced the winning run twice in the National League Championship Series, and his opposite-field blast on a changeup by Ryan Madson(notes) took out the two-time defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies once and for all, by a 3-2 score in Game 6. It was as close to a legendary "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" moment this star-crossed franchise has had since Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard Around the World in 1951.
The Giants have yet to win a World Series since moving to San Francisco from New York in 1958. They lost in seven games to the Yankees in 1962 when Willie McCovey's line drive with two outs in the ninth inning of the finale found a glove instead of a gap. They lost in seven games in 2002 to the Angels, memorable for the Giants' Game 6 collapse and manager Dusty Baker's 3-year-old son getting whisked away from home plate by J.T. Snow(notes).
And they were swept by the Oakland Athletics in 1989, a World Series remembered mostly for the 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake that shook Candlestick Park moments before Game 3 was to begin. Jose Uribe was there, a singles hitter and slick fielder, a fan favorite and a lively presence in the clubhouse. A 10-year-old Juan Uribe watched on television.
"I saw it all, and I was proud of my uncle," Juan said, referring to his cousin as an uncle because of their age difference. "The earthquake was scary, but I wanted to play for the Giants, anyway."
He got his chance when he signed a minor league contract before the 2009 season that paid him $1 million only if he made the team. He resurrected his career by hitting well and playing three infield positions, and the Giants re-signed him for $3.25 million for 2010.
Now he's a clubhouse leader and clutch performer. When closer Brian Wilson(notes) walked Chase Utley(notes) to put two on with two out in the ninth, it was Uribe who walked to the mound to offer words of encouragement before Ryan Howard(notes) stepped into the batter's box. Wilson struck out Howard with a cut fastball at the knees, all but pressing a mute button on the stunned sellout crowd. The Giants celebrated a bit on the field, and the fans who hadn't immediately filed out gave them one last lusty Philly boo. Philadelphia would not become the first NL team since World War II to reach the World Series three years in a row.
"We'd have liked to do this in front of our fans, but we're going home for the World Series," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "What a thrill."
The Northeast is deprived of a World Series team for the first time since 2006. The Giants are the first team from the West Coast in the Fall Classic since 2002. And this time they will face another upstart franchise, the Texas Rangers, who will be appearing in their first World Series. Game 1 is Wednesday in San Francisco and likely will match Rangers ace Cliff Lee(notes) against Giants two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum(notes).
Lincecum was one of two Giants starters to make relief appearances Saturday. On only one day of rest, he began the eighth inning after Uribe's home run had produced a lead. He struck out Jayson Werth(notes) but gave way to Wilson after giving up singles to Shane Victorino(notes) and Raul Ibanez(notes).
The next batter, Carlos Ruiz(notes), belted a line drive that was speared by first baseman Aubrey Huff(notes), who tossed to shortstop Edgar Renteria(notes) to double off Victorino at second and end the inning.
"I think Jose was smiling on us at that moment," Juan Uribe said.
Wilson was the sixth Giants pitcher. Starter Jonathan Sanchez(notes) was ineffective, inexplicably abandoning his slider for a slower-than-usual fastball. The Phillies scored twice in the first inning, and after the Giants tied the score in the third, Sanchez opened the bottom of the inning by walking Placido Polanco(notes) and drilling Chase Utley in the back.
The ball bounced into Utley's hand as he trotted to first base, and he flipped it in the vicinity of Sanchez. Not a good move. Sanchez yapped at Utley and Utley yapped back. Both benches cleared. In 2009, Utley had responded to Sanchez throwing a pitch near his head by taking a couple steps toward the mound, but Sanchez didn't seem to remember much about that incident. This time, no punches were thrown, but the delay gave reliever Jeremy Affeldt(notes) time to throw more warm-up pitches.
"If you are a professional baseball player, you don't do that," Sanchez said of Utley tossing the ball. "You go to the base."
Manager Bruce Bochy lifted Sanchez, and the left-handed Affeldt retired six batters in a row. Then rookie lefty Madison Bumgarner(notes) – the team's No. 4 starter – pitched two scoreless innings. Javier Lopez(notes) became the Giants' fourth consecutive left-handed pitcher, and was just as effective, retiring the side in the seventh.
Bochy made all the right moves, as he has done the entire postseason.
"I've never had a club that played with more heart," he said.
He pointed out hot-hitting Cody Ross(notes), the new addition who was chosen NLCS MVP. He mentioned his starting pitchers and the bullpen. He lauded rookie catcher Buster Posey(notes). And he broke into a grin when he talked about Uribe. A wrist injury kept him out of Games 2 and 3. His sacrifice fly in the ninth inning won Game 4. And his home run, a fly ball that landed in the first row, will hold a special place in Giants lore.
"Juan is a special guy," Bochy said. "He had a special year. We couldn't have done this without him."
And Juan would say that he couldn't have done it without Jose.